Juan Uribe The Unlikely Postseason Hero, Again

The Dodgers beat the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS Monday night to clinch the series and move on to the LCS against either the Cardinals or the Pirates. The outcome of the game didn’t hinge on Clayton Kershaw‘s start on only three days rest, although for a while it looked like it would. The outcome of the game didn’t hinge on the Braves’ sending Freddy Garcia to the mound to try and save their season, although for a while it looked like it would. The outcome of the game didn’t hinge on Adrian Gonzalez‘s poor defense at first base or Freddie Freeman‘s phenomenal defense there, although for a while it looked like it would.

Sure, those events played a role. They set the stage for the late-inning heroics that always seem to come from unexpected places in the postseason. Last night, in Los Angeles, the hero was Juan Uribe and his towering two-run home run into the left field bullpen that sent Dodger Stadium into a frenzy in the bottom of the 8th inning and sent the Braves home to Atlanta in defeat. A year ago, that moment would have been impossible to imagine.

Uribe signed a 3-year/$21 million deal with the Dodgers after winning the World Series with the Giants in 2010. Uribe had been a postseason hero in San Francisco: he hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in Game 4 and game-winning home run in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Phillies; and he singled and scored on Edgar Renteria‘s three-run home run off Cliff Lee to seal the World Series against the Rangers. The Giants wanted him back, but Dodgers GM Ned Coletti outbid his former boss, Brian Sabean, and Uribe was on his way to Chavez Ravine.

From the start, it looked like a very bad gamble by Coletti.

Uribe’s first two years in Los Angeles were anything but heroic. He labored through a sports hernia for much of the 2011 season and had season-ending surgery for the injury in late July. In 77 games, he batted .204/.264/.293 with four home runs. His 56 wRC+ was the fourth-worst in the National League among players with at least 25o plate appearances. At age 31, he looked all but done. The next season was worse. Uribe battled wrist soreness all season and saw his production drop even more than in 2011. He played just 66 games, and posted a .191/.258/.294 line in 179 plate appearances with just two home runs. His wRC+ dropped to 53. And there was a tumblr to capture all of the Uribe sorrow.

Things have been quite different for Uribe and the Dodgers this season. Chalk it up to better health or his upcoming free-agent status or his burgeoning friendship with Hyun-Jin Ryu. Whatever the cause, Uribe finally gave the Dodgers the kind of production they’ve been expecting since 2011. In 132 games, Uribe hit .278/.331/.438 with 12 home runs, including three in one game against the Diamondbacks in early September, as the Dodgers were pushing to clinch the National League West. Uribe did most of his damage from the sixth, seventh, and eighth spots in the lineup. He didn’t bask in the limelight that enveloped Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez, but he gave the Dodgers productive at-bats at the bottom of the order. And he’s been stellar defensively at third base, prompting a serious campaign for him to win the Gold Glove.

When Uribe came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning Monday night — with Yasiel Puig on second base after a lead off double and nobody out — Don Mattingly asked Uribe to bunt Puig to third. The Dodgers had used their Kershaw card and were trailing the Braves by one run in the 8th inning, with a Game 5 in Atlanta looking more and more likely. And yet there was the bunt sign for Juan Uribe, who’s had four successful sacrifice bunts in three years with the Dodgers.

Here’s Uribe’s first bunt attempt:

Uribe 1 Real

And his second bunt attempt:

Uribe 2 Real Real

Lucky for the Dodgers that Uribe couldn’t lay down the bunt. With the count at two balls and two strikes, Uribe did this to David Carpenter‘s hanging breaking ball:

Uribe HR

They call him Jazz Hands, for the way he effortlessly flings the bat when he hits a majestic home run. On Monday night, Juan Uribe became the first player in MLB history to hit a game-winning home run in the 8th inning or later in two different series-deciding postseason games. And with that, he wrote a score that would have made John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk smile.

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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

13 Responses to “Juan Uribe The Unlikely Postseason Hero, Again”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    No one remembers the 2005 White Sox :'(

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    • ozzie says:

      not me, i will always remember those fantastic defensive plays for the final two outs of game 4.

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    • MikeS says:

      Senor Octubre with two really good defensive plays on the last two outs of the series. I remember.

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    • Huisj says:

      And don’t forget his ridiculous September in ’05 when the rest of the team was scuffling and he helped them fend off a red-hot Cleveland. He hit .292 with a .615 SLG% that month.

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    • JorgeFabregas says:

      He was a premier defensive shortstop at the time. Which, I suppose, would make him a likely hero. This piece is about the postseason moments during the declining skills portion of his career.

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  2. Rob says:

    David Carpenter threw up a gigantic meatball. All MLB players, aside from Elliot Johnson, would have crushed that pitch.

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  3. SirCub says:

    Great article. Looks like Uribe might’ve been worth his contract just from his performance this season alone, not even counting his postseason heroics.

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  4. Blasphemous says:

    If there’s anything we’ve learned from watching Uribe over the years it’s that he just annihilates sliders up and in. Hard in, soft away is the way to pitch him. That’s an unforgivable pitching mistake in that situation. You have to get the breaking ball on the outer half to him.

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  5. Rob says:

    But why Carpenter didn’t just throw him a high fastball at 95 MPH and get the K is beyond me.

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  6. channelclemente says:

    Uribe’s hotzone graphic with 2 strikes suggest someone made a mistake.


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  7. TheMooseOfDeath says:

    With minimum 400 PA:

    Uribe is the…
    2nd most valuable 3B in terms of WAR in the NL this year (behind David Wright)
    7th most valuable 3B in MLB

    Best defensive 3B in NL
    2nd best defensive 3B in MLB (behind Manny Machado)
    6th best defense in MLB

    This has indeed been a strange and wondrous year for baseball

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  8. Ben says:

    Great piece, Wendy.

    Slight correction: Giants fans named Uribe “Jazz Hands” for the way his gloved hands look after he drops his bat on majestic home runs: with his white-gloved hands, palms facing forward and the fingers splayed.

    See Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer. (well don’t actually see it, the black face is pretty offensive).

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